Population = 1,308,372 (part of the San Diego-Carlsbad Metro area with 3,299,521), latitude 32º42’, longitude 117º09’, elevation 26 feet, average January low temperature = 48, Average July high temperature = 75, average sunny days = 266, annual snowfall = 0”, annual rainfall = 10.2”
The road from Yuma to San Diego runs through a vast area of desert, then sand dunes, and then finally, mountains. Climbing the East side of the mountains, the driver sees the signs – 1000 feet, 2000 feet, 3000 feet, 4000 feet – go past in rapid succession. After the final peak, somewhere around 4400 feet, the descent begins and the scenery changes. The green is beginning! There are patches of trees, first pine, then deciduous, then palm. There are valleys floored with meadows and forests. The humidity rises. The air becomes thick with the green glow of plants of every kind, growing profusely and enthusiastically down to the edge of Mother Pacific.
On Pacific Beach it is a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon and the beach lovers are out in droves. The boardwalk runs for miles and miles and the walkers, skateboarders, and bicyclists weave past one another with the casual ease of long practice. For the college-aged beach worshiper, this is about as good as it gets. This is the place to catch a wave, brown your buns, chug some beers, and flirt. By mid-afternoon the many bars that line the boardwalk are stuffed like sardine cans with the young and tan and barely dressed, doing their mating dances. Beer and hormones flow like the tide.
We are sharing a rental with family, Jack and Penny, so it is a much bigger, nicer place than we would usually rent. Our fourth floor condo is right on the boardwalk, a stone’s throw from the ocean. Hours float lightly away as we sit out on the balcony, watching and listening to the waves rolling in. The view is glorious, the people parade hilarious. Occasionally we are treated to pods of dolphins playing just offshore. Jet fighter gulls strafe our position while dour pelicans flap by in formation.
Our first foray into the depths of San Diego is to visit Brother Bill on Coronado Island. Bill is Marylu’s brother and currently a Navy Chaplain, stationed aboard a carrier. To get to Bill’s condo, we have to brave the freeway again and cross the Coronado bridge. This engineering marvel was built long and curved and high enough so that Navy ships could slip under it. Driving over it is like ascending the first hill on the roller coaster. The driver sees two narrow lanes with sky on either side. Gotta confess to being more than a little uneasy about the whole experience.
Our next trip into San Diego brings us to Balboa Park. This is an enormous (1200 acres) swath of greenery, carved out of the surrounding city. Within the park you will find 16 museums featuring everything from art to natural science to anthropology to railroads. There are at least 17 gardens, formal and informal, lush with flowers and trees, imports and locals. There are theaters, stadiums, a carousel, and a miniature railroad. A large part of the park is the San Diego Zoo, which houses over 3,700 animals in an open-air, cageless environment. To truly appreciate the scope of Balboa Park would take several days of dedicated exploration.
About a half a lifetime ago, I was a sailor with the Navy, stationed in San Diego. I loved the city way back then, and still do today. The constantly mild weather, the endless beaches, the awesome variety of trees and flowers. The problem for me would be sharing the city and the freeways with some 3 million people. At this point in my life, smaller cities are looking a lot more inviting.
Next stop: Casita Springs, CA